An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Infallibility, Papal

The dogma of the Roman Catholic Church that the Pope is preserved from error in the teaching of revealed truth. This dogma was formulated in the decree Pastor Aeternus of Vatican Council I (1870). It was slightly reformulated at Vatican II in its dogmatic constitution on the church, Lumen Gentium, which stated that when the Pope proclaims by a definitive act some doctrine of faith or morals, his definitions need no approval of others and do not allow an appeal to any other judgment. No other church has accepted this teaching. The Final Report of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (1982) indicates Anglican agreement that an ecumenical council or universal primate could make a decisive judgment in matters of faith, excluding error, provided that the decision were “manifestly a legitimate interpretation of biblical faith and in line with orthodox tradition.” Otherwise, the reception (acceptance) of the church would be required for the definition to be authoritative. Anglicans do not accept the guaranteed possession of a “gift of divine assistance in judgment” of the Bishop of Rome that would assure the infallibility of any formal papal decision before its reception by the faithful. The Roman Catholic dogma of papal infallibility remains a major stumbling block in Anglican-Roman Catholic ecumenical relations. See Reception (of Doctrine).

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.